In the run-up to the COP26 Summit in November 2021, we held four all-staff talks to highlight our world-leading climate and environmental research. Each session included a research presentation and a presentation about current University policies and actions and led to lively discussion about government, community and individual actions we can take to tackle climate change. This blog includes films of the two presentations from the first event, with a brief overview of the issues discussed.
In his presentation, Professor Nigel Arnell (Meteorology) explains what a ‘Conference of the Parties’ is, how it will work in Glasgow, and some of the science challenges. This is followed by Professor Andrew Charlton-Perez (Meteorology), Fi Blair and Dawn Aggas (MCE), and Nasreen Majid and Daniel James (Institute of Education) describing the process which took place at the University’s recent Climate Education Summit and the planned launch of the resulting Action Plan at COP26.As our knowledge of climate change has increased, the research focus is turning towards identifying workable solutions to the impacts of the changes we can expect. This will require many different disciplines to work together, and will be a focus of University planning, and the new Research Strategy that is in development – to try and make it easier for people from different areas to work together.
As a leader in climate research, we have a responsibility to ensure children and young people know the facts and understand the science behind them. This led us to develop the Climate Education Summit which we held in September with partners working in the sector, including the Department of Education. The resulting Climate Education Action Plan covers areas such as an initial teacher training, continuing professional development for school staff and leaders, including governors and staff who aren’t maybe in teaching roles but still work with young people, and quality assurance of teaching resources.
The fact that as a university we are an independent organisation with no ties or political affiliation, enabled us exercise our convening power and bring people together to collaborate and to build a partnership. And what’s been really exciting for us is to recognise the role that we have in doing that – it isn’t necessarily something that the other organisations we’ve been working with, particularly government, have the ability or space to do.
Much of the discussion focused on what we as individuals can do, compared to the responsibility of governments and international institutions to tackle the climate crisis. Education is the first part of creating change and, we can all make individual decisions about travel or diet or what we buy that will make a difference, but this has to be facilitated by the structural actions and decisions that governments can make and can encourage businesses to do. And to help put pressure on, to build momentum towards government action, we can all make small behavioural changes, we can all inform ourselves and get the best advice we can about what will make a difference, and we can all talk to other people. Talk to our friends, our family, our community about what we’re doing and why and it will gradually in time make a contribution and will compensate for when governments aren’t doing as much as we would like them to.